The Year of Playdates: Extrapolation of Fun!

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Day 16, #reverb10, Prompt: Friendship… How has a friendship changed you this year?

Goldfish Murder by Lin Pernille ♥ Photography on Flickr Creative CommonsI don’t even WANT to talk about PLAYDATES. But this post is reminding me that so many things I thought I knew about friendship got themselves imploded in 2010 when I really had to start to understand the intricacies of PLAYDATES.

Are they for Mommy? Or for the kids?

Can I them drop off? Who is this kid again?

What do I do with my other kids while this one is playing with her friend?

Why do I need them? (you can ask that question a couple different ways.)

What do I do if I like the mom but not the kids?

What do I do if the kids like each other but I can’t stand the parents?

What do I do if the none of these people seem to like me or our kids?

And then there’s the whole “I have a nanny” vs. “Yours go to daycare?” issue, which means some kids aren’t available. Or I’m not. Or they feel weird about dropping them off. With the nanny.

My crash course in finding friends for the kids is happening in the midst of trying to make friends of my own: through work (most of my colleagues are older with kids in college or none at all) or through common interests and the neighborhood. Most of those friends are younger, with no kids of their own. So these friendships have, naturally, been stunted by our posse of small people.

Which leads me back to the original dilemma: Where are all the interesting, fun parents with young kids? And what are they doing with their time?

People With Kids Are Everywhere, But Where You’d Like Them to Be

Well, they seem to be circling in these strange modern extrapolation of fun called “playdates.” These are generally awkward “get-together” of moms, their kids, and goldfish crackers — often arranged merely because the kids are the same age — where everyone makes half-hearted attempts to talk about anything else but teething, A.D.D. meds, and nutrition.

But no one is able to talk about anything interesting at ALL since:

1. You don’t actually know each other and may not have anything in common and

2.  the conversation swirls around preschoolers. So hence it sounds like a stuttering Tourette’s sufferer who interrupts every nearly complete thought with things like “GET DOWN,” “No-no-no”  and “Not-in-the-mouth!”

Playdates, I think, are like a perfect metaphor for modern family life. I need them– to get out and see people who don’t drool and stomp their feet — and yet they come with all sorts of unintended consequences. Like if I have a playdate with friend Billy and his mommy, but it doesn’t go well, now what? Do I have to keep calling? How does one break up with a playdater? It’s as if we moms, having been married awhile, got lonely for the nasty break-up heartache. And decided to torture ourselves again.

Two good things have come out of the Year of Playdates: I realized that the kids (despite their clamoring for Chuck E. Cheese excursions) are far happier playing with the neighbor kids in our yard or theirs. Regardless of age and gender differences. Big surprise.

And at least one of the regular playdates has started to sound more like a tuned in radio station and less like loud static. The kids play together without the use of cattle prods or bribery most of the time, and the other Moms and I don’t have to say things like “What’s your husband’s name again?”

Or god forbid, “What’s YOUR name?”

Which I’d say is progress.

  6 comments for “The Year of Playdates: Extrapolation of Fun!

  1. December 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    OMG, this is the story of my life right now!

  2. Lori Soderholm
    December 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Well said, Elizabeth! Wading into the abyss eight years ago was like walking into a junior high dance. I had so many questions and as a new mom, so many insecurities. With both special needs and homeschooling to set us apart from most of the families we know, I always felt like my grown-up time consisted of explanations rather than any sort of bonding.

    It will get better, though. It takes time to find the right fit for everyone. Be prepared as well, because just when you think you have found it, someone’s schedule inevitably changes and you feel like you’re back to square one, again. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s kind of how parenting seems to work for us anyway. Just when we think we’ve figured something out, the rules change.

  3. December 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I think it is a sign of the times. We used to run in packs on our street when I was a kid, and no one went inside until our parents called us in for dinner. You were friends with the people in your neighborhood. A play date was a knock on the door that said “Can you come out and play?”
    It is a different world now, and we can’t let our children out of our sight the way our parents could…it’s too bad though, I think it was good for both of us.

  4. amy
    December 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    i’m in a similar place, but there are no children in our neighborhood…so we do some playdating (a bit unsuccessfully) and lots of playground hopping.

  5. Sharron Clemons
    December 21, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by memydogsmylife, Elizabeth Howard. Elizabeth Howard said: Why do we do it to ourselves?? The Year of Playdates: Extrapolation of Fun! http://t.co/XAyGbTw via @smallstate #reverb10 @curiousmartha [...]

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